Sabah NSC finds fault lines in Putrajaya’s National Recovery Plan

Sabah NSC finds fault lines in Putrajaya’s National Recovery Plan.

Borneo territories disagree on ‘one size fits all’ NRP approach.

It had to happen sooner, or later. The Sabah gov’t tweaked the SOP (standard operating procedure) governing the prolonged Phase 1 of the National Recovery Plan (NRP) and allowed dine-in, among others, from this month.

It’s not known whether the Federal gov’t would gazette the new SOP. According to the local media, Kota Kinabalu, Sandakan and Kinabatangan have moved ahead with the new SOP.

Sabahans pointed at the Federal Constitution and the territory’s Public Health Ordinance in reminding Putrajaya that Borneo rights decides on the SOP introduced by the NRP.

They are unhappy, as in S’wak, on Putrajaya taking a “one size fits all” approach in managing the pandemic.

Under the pre-GE14 devolution by way of greater administrative powers, initiated by then Prime Minister Najib Abdul Razak, Sabah and S’wak may decide on certain matters, being territories unlike the states and sultanates in Malaya.

“What Sabah and S’wak can do, let them decide,” Najib was reported as saying on devolution. “We need to weed out waste and duplication. For every Federal Dept and Agency, the two gov’ts in Borneo have matching Depts and Agencies.”

In fact, the Sabah gov’t brought back the Health and Education ministries on 12 May 2018, two days after GE14 on 10 May. The portfolios had been handed over to the Federal gov’t by Chief Minister Harris Salleh before he lost power in 1985.

The Sabah gov’t re-distributed the Health and Education tasks to other Ministries, after the snap territorial election on Sept 26 last year, over direct funding issues. Putrajaya, since Najib, has never been against Sabah and S’wak re-assuming responsibilities for Health and Education, among others, but cannot directly fund them.

Therein the matter lies.

Senior Minister Ismail Sabri may no longer be so sure on Sabah, or S’wak for that matter. So, the two territories weren’t mentioned when he announced that Kelantan, Terengganu, Pahang, Perak and Perlis will move into Phase 2 of the NRP on July 5.

The last time that Ismail Sabri stirred the hornet’s nest on Sabah was on 4 Nov 2015 after he allegedly ate banned turtle’s eggs in Sandakan. The territorial gov’t said, not so long ago, that it will bring closure to the case.

The procedures in Sabah on the SOP related to the NRP are quite straightforward. It comes within the prerogative and discretionary powers of gov’t.

Briefly, the Chief Minister convened a meeting of the Sabah National Security Council (SNSC) in late June after the territorial Cabinet meeting on the SOP and lockdown.

The Sabah Commissioner of Police is in the SNSC. Although he reports to the IGP, the CM exercises oversight.

The Sabah Health Dept Director, Datuk Bandar Kota Kinabalu, and a member of the NSC in Putrajaya would have been invited as well.

The Sabah Health Dept Director, being a Federal gov’t staff, probably walks a thin line between the Sabah gov’t and the Health Dept Director-General in Putrajaya. It’s the Health Dept in Sabah, assisted by police, that metes out the fines for violating the SOP.

After the SNSC meeting, the CM and all the participants did not meet the Press. Instead, the CM’s Dept issued a press statement on Mon 28 June 2021. Normally, the press statement would have come from the territorial secretary.

Ismail Sabri was quick to dismiss the press statement but thereafter held his peace when Sabahans hurled brickbats at him.

Patently, the SNSC found fault lines that extended beyond the SOP in the NRP.

The reality is that Sabah, and S’wak, are geographically separate from Malaya, and protected from the spike in virus cases on the other side by the South China Sea.

Although both territories are hovering below the 10 per cent fully vaccinated threshhold needed for moving to Phase 2 NRP, they have met the other two criteria. Intensive care facilities are not under stress. Local daily virus cases average below 300+ in Sabah and still 300+ in S’wak.

Selangor, Kuala Lumpur and Negri Sembilan seem to be dragging the whole nation down on managing the pandemic.

Both the Borneo territories can’t afford to wait for M’sia to meet the threshhold 4K daily virus cases, 10 per cent fully vaccinated, and intensive care facilities under moderate pressure before moving into Phase 2 NRP on the SOP and other indicators.

In Borneo, the thinking is that a bottom up approach at the local level, can best manage the pandemic.

The virus remains a local public healthcare crisis although labelled a pandemic.

The virus transmits and spreads at the community level, with or without crowding, and can be better handled by the local gov’ts provided they are empowered and funded.

According to a Federal gov’t chart published online by the Daily Express in Kota Kinabalu on Fri 2 July 2021, Sabah has the Alpha (UK), Beta (South Africa) and Delta (India) “variants of concern”. It has no Kappa (India), Theta (Philippines) and Eta (UK and Nigeria) “variants of interest”.

The Gamma (Brazil) and Lambda (Peru) variants were not listed in the chart for M’sia.

S’wak has the Beta, Theta and Eta variants. It has no Alpha, Delta, and Kappa variants.

Author: fernzthegreat

Joe Fernandez holds a honours degree in management, majoring in economics, and has opted from academia in law to being a jurist. He was trained professionally on the job as a journalist. He's a longtime Borneo watcher, keen on the history and legal aspects of Malaya's presence in Sabah and Sarawak. He teaches the English language privately and has emerged as a subject matter expert in public examination techniques.

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